Dance is something we might normally associate with ballet, but it’s the thematic thread connecting three works that will be performed by the Fresno Philharmonic in two concerts this weekend.
Fresno Philharmonic Concerts
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, 3 p.m.
Location: Paul Shaghoian Concert Hall, Clovis North High School, 2770 E. International Ave.
Tickets: $30 to $71, with discounts for students, children, veterans, and active-duty military. Available at fresnophil.org or (559) 261-0600.
The pair of concerts are part of “California Festival: A Celebration of New Music” that’s being presented from Nov. 3 to Nov. 19 by 100 musical organizations in the state. The festival is the brainchild of music directors of symphony orchestras in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego to showcase music that’s been written within the last five years.
“The idea behind the festival is really to reflect the vitality of what’s going on in music in the state of California,” said Stephen Wilson, the Philharmonic’s president and CEO. “Certainly large organizations like the San Francisco Symphony and the L.A. Phil have attracted a lot of attention for their forward-thinking programming. Those are two orchestras that really have done a lot to introduce a lot of new music into the repertoire. But I think that what the California Festival changes, that it’s not just limited to these large cities.”
Four pieces by composer Anna Clyne are being performed across the state during the festival, including her 2019 work “Dance” for cello and orchestra written for cellist Inbal Segev.
Segev is the featured performer in this weekend’s Fresno Philharmonic concerts and will perform “Dance,” Wilson said.
Work Inspired by Ancient Persian Poet
The work takes its title from a poem by the 13th century Persian poet and mystic Rumi. The other works on the program are George Antheil’s “A Jazz Symphony” and Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92.”
“The Beethoven 7 is a rhythmically very vital piece that the composer Richard Wagner called the apotheosis of the dance … there’s a lot of dance element in the Beethoven 7 as well,” Wilson said.
Antheil’s work with jazzy dance rhythms also continues the jazz theme of this year’s concert season, he said.
New Music Not New to Fresno Audiences
Although this month’s statewide festival might be introducing new music to some audiences, Fresno audiences are no strangers to the genre. Under the baton of Rei Hotoda, the Philharmonic’s conductor and music director, the Philharmonic has been celebrating new music over the past six seasons, performing works by established and emerging composers.
“Rei has very much changed the programming of the Fresno Philharmonic,” Wilson said. “This is now her seventh season with us as music director, and she has really made contemporary music, music by living composers, a regular part of the programming diet for the Fresno Philharmonic now. It’s gone a long way to try to normalize that for the audience.”
Some of those new works have been commissioned specifically for the Philharmonic, Wilson said.
The Philharmonics’ 70th anniversary season next year will include a new work commissioned by the orchestra, in partnership with the Gabriele Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. California composers Hitomi Oba and Eirk Oba are basing their composition on the life and work of David “Mas” Masumoto, a Central Valley organic peach farmer and author.
New Music Festival Sparking A Cultural Tour?
Wilson said he’s hopeful that the concept of a California festival of new music could become an annual or biannual event that could draw visitors to the state.
“I think it has potential as a cultural tourism kind of thing — ‘if I come out to California, I can hit three or four concerts within a short time period,'” he said.